Flight Hours Per Day

Hello, I had a couple questions:

  1. How many hours per day does a student starting from zero time fly per day on average?
    -Do we slowly build up longer hours of flying? Or do we jump into long flying days?

  2. I have heard a lot of new pilots use crash pads as a cheap home space to live in while on reserve. Is this true? Also, what exactly does being on reserve mean? Are crash pads only for regional airline pilots or do major airline pilots use these spaces as well?

  3. I love the thought of being able to fly for a living, but I think with anything there needs to be a work life balance. I have seen earlier posts express that “seniority is everything in the airlines”, so at what point do new pilots start to gain more control over their schedule and life? Were you guys able to find that balance your first few years as airline pilots? Or was there a constant struggle of sacrificing relationships for work?

  4. Not really an important question, but one I am curious about. Are pilots allowed facial hair? Neatly lowly trimmed beards or goatees allowed? I have seen some airlines allow mustaches, but that looks creepier than a beard in my opinion :grin:

Thank you very much for answering my questions.


Welcome to the forums and thanks for posting! Let’s jump straight to your questions.

  1. The amount that you fly per day while in the program will vary widely based on that section of the program you are in and of course the weather. There are some parts of the program that are very book intense while others are more flight time intense. Generally though you should expect a steady stream of flying while a student in the Career Pilot Program.

  2. Crashpads are used by many pilots, not just reserve pilots. I have had one ever since I was hired by United even though I have held a steady schedule for the last nine years. I use the crashpad because I live in Virginia and work in New Jersey, it is a convenient place to spend the night before or after a trip. Some pilots will stay in a crashpad while on their reserve days, but they are not places to “live”. It is generally expected that a pilot will travel home on his or her day off. “Reserve” means that you do not have a steady flight schedule assigned to you at the beginning of the month. A reserve pilot has assigned days that they must be available to the company. On those days they are generally expected to be able to get to the airport within an hour or two to cover any flights that unexpectedly need pilots, such as a pilot calls out sick or can’t fly a flight due to FAA legality issues. Reserve is generally not considered as desirable as being a line holder and having a set schedule, so typically the more junior pilots at a company end up being on reserve.

  3. Balancing work and home life can sometimes be a struggle at the airlines. there are plenty of missed holidays and rescheduled events. However, not many other jobs offer 12-16 days off per month. When we have a day off it is truly off, there is no work to bring home, no phones to answer. That fact alone helps a lot in making up for the time spent away from home. As a pretty senior First Officer I now have decent control over my schedule and am able to hold all of the holidays off. As you progress along the seniority scale you will gain more control over your schedule, but even in the beginning you will have a fair number of days off.

  4. The FAA prohibits beards as the oxygen masks in the cockpit will not seal over them. I have seen some pilots have goatees, but that is pushing the intent of the rule. Plan on having a mustache or being clean shaven as a pilot.

I hope this helped answer your questions. Feel free to ask more as you think of them.



Hey Jason,

I’d like to expand on the whole “Seniority is Everything” and how it relates to quality of life and the dreaded Reserve. Seniority IS definitely everything in so much as it gives you priority over the other pilots in the GROUP based on their PRIORITIES. For example, if you’re #1 on the seniority list and EVERY pilot wants Christmas off you’re definitely going to get Christmas off, easy. So does that mean you’ll have no quality of life until you move up? Not necessarily. When I was first hired at ExpressJet, EWR (Newark) was their most junior base because frankly no one wanted to live in NY/NJ. All the pilots bid IAH and CLE (Houston and Cleveland) and many were upset when they were sent to EWR and had to wait months or even a year before they could get out. BUT guess what? I’m from NY and only wanted EWR so I was a happy guy. Not only did I get EWR right off the bat, but as guys gained seniority and left I gained seniority WITHIN the base very quickly. Another thing was EWR guys hated going to Mexico (for a variety of reasons). Well I LOVED going to Mexico so I was happy to get those trips and because I was willing to take them I ended up with better schedules because avoiding Mexico was more important to many them days off. Now I’m here at Hawaiian and again it’s not strictly a matter of seniority (again unless you want what everybody else wants). When I flew Interisland here we had am and pm schedules. Most guys hate getting up early so pm’s were senior. Well I’m a morning person so once again I got what I wanted by default. I’ve since moved to the Airbus and I’m very junior on this airplane. BUT AGAIN, it’s about the “group”. Many Bus pilots commute (even from the outer islands) and they’re biggest priority is 1) having a fixed schedule and 2) high value (long) trips to maximize their days on. I live in Oahu so I actually bid reserve. Why? We have a 3 hr call out and there’s literally nowhere you can go on this island that’s more than 1 hr from the airport. I have a waterproof case on my phone, I keep my uniform in my locker and a bag packed and do whatever I like. IF they call I shower, shave and go to work. Most of the trips I get are lower time West Coast but since I’m on reserve I’m getting paid a 75hr guarantee so the less I fly the better I make out. I’ve been averaging 19 days off a month and flying 40-50 hrs but I still get paid my 75. Not a bad deal. Now would I rather have a fixed schedule and do some AKL and PEK (Auckland and Beijing) trips? Sure but at my seniority I can’t hold them but on reserve I actually have a shot if someone calls in sick. It’s about making the best of the situation and hopefully having some different priorities than the masses. Does that all make sense? Will you miss Christmas morning with the kids? Probably for a few years but it’s not all bad.

Now let’s talk facial hair. While Chris is my friend and I love him dearly, the man is continuing to spread US Major Airline propaganda. Many years ago when airplanes became pressurized pilots needed to have O2 in the cockpit in case that pressurized airplane became unpressurized quickly. O2 masks are a critical piece of emergency equipment since if you’re cruising along at FL410 (41,000ft) and the airplane suffers a rapid or explosive decompression you literally have seconds before you’re unconscious and the plane because a pilotless drone (no bueno since there’s no one on the ground with a remote). The FAA tested the EARLY masks and discovered that if you were a Hipster rocking a beard you couldn’t get a good seal and a bad seal is as good as no seal and therefore said NO BEARDS. Well the aviation industry has advanced over the years and that includes O2 MASKS which is why if you look at my profile picture you will in fact see me sporting the goatee I missed during my time at ExpressJet. Now many European and Middle Eastern (for obvious reasons) carriers allow beards, however most US carriers still do not (I think Hawaiian is the only one?). Why? Personally I believe they believe clean shaven looks more professional and it’s one less conversation they may need to have. You see pilots as a rule generally like to push things. Here at Hawaiian we’re allowed “neatly trimmed and well groomed” beards but every now and then some fool shows up after vacation looking like Duck Dynasty. He promptly gets an invitation to the CPO (Chief Pilots office) for a chat the CP would just as soon live without. No beards means 1 less meeting.



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